A beginner’s guide to one bag living

For many aspiring minimalists, the golden grail is One Bag Living, or what I like to call ‘OBL’. It’s a lifestyle that comes from being able to reduce everything you have to only what you need and reaping all the rewards of not being weighed down by junky, excessive baggage.

If you’re interested in what it’s all about you’ve come to the right place.

what is OBL?

Firstly, I should mention that one bag living isn’t for everyone, just in case people start to think I’m advocating everybody and their grandmothers start throwing stuffed backpacks on their shoulders and hitting the road.

Nor am I saying it’s a permanent way to live – although I know it is possible to live long-term. Yes, the kind of OBL I’m talking about works best for single people but that’s not to say that downsizing for a couple or even just a little for a family isn’t possible.

For the last couple of months I’ve been living out of a suitcase… but I’m having the time of my life. I realize there’s something about the words ‘living out of a suitcase’ that scares people. It has bad connotations, as if one has no stability or adequate income or that someone is just unable to settle. But for me, these words have come to mean something completely different. They have come to mean freedom, fun, exploration and discovery.

‘One bag’ doesn’t necessarily mean a concrete measurement like ‘1x 30 inch suitcase’ or ‘1x carry on suitcase’. Essentially, it means reducing your stuff down to a level that’s right for you, which all depends on what you do for a living, how much you can handle, where you want to go and what you need for your interests or job and so on – as long as you get everything down to only. what. you. need.

It’s also not necessarily about fishing rolled up shirts from a zip-up suitcase or hotel-skipping, although it can be.

You can even do OBL from your own home. The point is to clear out anything irrelevant so that you can focus on what matters to you – whether that’s travel or family, school, hobby, art or even your business.

However, if you manage to reduce your things to about one (or maybe even two or three) suitcases, you can also just about live anywhere in the world. You don’t have to earn millions to be able to rent a small place in even the most expensive cities (believe me, I know). Or, if you’re not interested in travelling, clearing clutter can do wonders for your focus on your goals.

With OBL, the possibilities are endless. In fact, with all this freedom, you’ll be surprised to learn what was previously impossible is actually within reach. Things that ‘only happen in movies’ can become real life.

a clean slate

Imagine for a moment that you got to start again. For some reason you got a rare chance for a fresh start. You don’t own any clothes, shoes, bags, gadgets, books, toiletries or furniture.

Then somebody gave you one suitcase and you could put everything you needed in it for two or three weeks. How would you pack? What would you choose? How would your life be different?

5 steps on how to effectively live out of a suitcase

1. Eliminate. The first, most important step is to get rid of everything you don’t need. Things that you’ve kept ‘just in case’, extras, backups, things that don’t work or fit, things you don’t use or have forgotten about or simply don’t like – it’s all got to go. Most people have more things they don’t need than they do, so a sensible approach that might make it easier would be to mentally get rid of everything then bring back one by one things that are most essential to you. Be strict and firm and ask questions such as how often you actually use it and what reasons you’re really keeping it for.

2. Digitize. Whilst eliminating, you might find that a lot of the things you have can be replaced, so you won’t have to lose them forever. Paperwork, photos, CD’s and books are just a few of the many things you can keep if you can get them in digital format. My less-than-half-an-inch thick kindle has replaced dozens and dozens of my books (and made them instantly searchable!) and my external hard drive replaces boxes of lecture notes, shelves of CD’s and albums of photographs.

3. Minimalize your wardrobe. Clothing is usually the most difficult area to tackle when it comes to downsizing. When you have fewer garments, it’s important that most items can be worn in most kinds of weather and occasions. It also helps to choose neutral colours (which you can brighten up with one or two accessories) so that you can pretty much mix and match whatever tops and trousers you would like to wear.

4. One in one out. Just because you’re down to less stuff, it doesn’t mean that you have to stop buying altogether. There’s nothing wrong with getting something new if you swap it with something you already own (preferably by donating it away) since you’re not actually gaining in quantity. Think carefully before you buy – how long will it last? How useful will it be? Is it worth it?

5. Adapt. If you find yourself starting to accumulate stuff, try to remind yourself why you chose OBL in the first place. What are you doing it for? Has it benefited you so far? Sometimes people are too strict and allow themselves too little. Remember that minimalism isn’t about deprivingyourself of things that you want, it’s about freeing yourself from the clutches of consumerism so that you can have the life you want.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that situations and people change, and that not many people can live a single kind of lifestyle forever, whether it’s OBL or living at home with one’s parents or a college, or corporate, or even country lifestyle. People crave excitement, and OBL can give it to you, but don’t be surprised if you see yourself looking for a change again – maybe a change of wardrobe or maybe a change of scenery.

I’m nearly finishing up with my travels now, and I can’t believe some of the places I’ve been and things I’ve seen. I know I’ve made memories I’ll remember for a long, long time. It wasn’t always easy, but because of OBL, I managed to get through some rough times on the road and have the adventure of a lifetime. I wouldn’t trade that for all the possessions in the world.

Zen in a cup of tea

How easily can a cup of tea be taken for granted?

Before I went to Plum Village, I had no idea that I never knew how to truly enjoy a cup of tea, water or coffee. I used to gulp it down without a second thought.

It’s the same with every breath. We all know how to breathe, we can even do it unconsciously, but what happens when we take a moment to do it intentionally?

What happens if we take the time to drink it all in?

Drink tea and breathe

Every morning, I have a cup of coffee. Every afternoon, a cup of tea. But, for every cup, I don’t take the time to enjoy it, I am too busy doing something else at the same time.

Every moment, I am breathing. But, for every breath, I don’t take the time to appreciate it, I am too occupied by distractions that cause my mind to wander off into the past or future.

However, in reality, everything I need to do, or think about, is in the present moment. Only when I am in the present, does life become real.

No longer is my life just another distraction, another figment, another ghost.

Have you ever meditated on a cup of tea? When you meditate, first, you direct your concentration on an object, like the cup in your hands. Then you sustain and intensify your concentration on it, step by step. You will see things that cannot normally be seen.

For example, did you know that to see the clouds, you do not have to look up at the sky?There is a cloud, right there, in your tea. The water in your cup used to fly high in the sky. It used to run down mountains and along rivers and seas. It has been around the world a million times and back again. Now, it is in your hands, and in the air you are breathing right now. It may not look exactly like a cloud right now, but it is in there, do you see it?

When you realise this, your connection with your tea, your breath, and therefore the rest of the world, becomes deep and meaningful.

To be able to have a cup of tea is a wonder. To be able to breathe is a miracle.

Sip your tea. Take a deep breath. Come back to life.

Why I Write

As I approach the ten year anniversary of writing for this blog, I ask myself why I continue to update it, even throughout all of the changes that have occurred in my life over the last decade. I started this blog when I was a university student (hence the name), graduated, lived and travelled abroad, moved home several times, went from trying to survive a soul-sucking career to running my own business, maintained and built new friendships, got engaged, all while trying to fit in running/reading/language learning and all the other things that I wanted to do.

Writing doesn’t come easy to me, even though I consume lots of it—I read at least 52 books a year, not including blogs, newsletters and magazines. All the while I can’t help but notice how others are able to express themselves so well, and so often, whereas for me every monthly post feels like climbing up a mountain. First I struggle to find the right words to say what I want to say and how to say it, then I struggle with editing and trying to ‘perfect’ each piece, only to read it again a few weeks later and realise I could have done it better.

So if writing feels like torture to me, why do I do it anyway? Precisely because it is hard. Because when I am done, I can be proud that I created something valuable to share with others. If it was easy there wouldn’t be a sense of accomplishment. If I didn’t have anything worthwhile to say, it wouldn’t make a difference to people. The best thing is receiving comments and emails from readers who tell me that a post I wrote has helped them in their minimalist journey, but these are only occasional. Most of the time I have to find the motivation within myself to keep going.

Writing itself is a skill, a craft, that one practices and improves over time. And the only way to do it is to write a lot. There are no shortcuts—one has to keep on writing, every day if possible. Even if 99% of the stuff is crap, a writer lives for the 1% worth keeping. Behind this post you are reading right now is a dashboard with hundreds of drafts that weren’t good enough to publish. Writing is a lesson in humility that I continue to embrace. Maybe one day I’ll improve enough to publish 2% of what I write.

The process of writing itself helps me gather and arrange my thoughts. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m trying to say at first. I just have a vague idea in my head, and it’s only by slowly articulating it one sentence at a time that I can figure out how I really feel. The interesting thing is that I can look back on everything I’ve written and see if I’ve changed over time. If I still feel the same way about something, have I at least improved my craft enough so that I can say it a little better, or find another nuance I can explore?

The possibilities are endless and I know if I have the persistence, I can keep this blog going for another ten years at least. As I mentioned above, I try not to let the other things going on in my life stop me from writing. Writing has trained me to eliminate distractions, to close the other tabs of my browser, but also for a few hours close the ‘other tabs’ of my life—silence my phone and forget about everything else except for this one thing I’m doing right now. Writing gives me the chance to focus completely on making something that matters, and that is a wonderful gift.

A Minimalist Guide to Money and Investing — Part II

This is the second part in my Minimalist Guide to Money and Investing. You can read Part I here, which explains my views on Motivation and Environment, and Mindset and Education.

This post will be about:

3—Accumulating Capital and Allocation

So you’ve decided that you want to be an investor. You’ve worked hard to change your pre-existing views about money, and you’ve been reading and learning a tremendous amount about investing.  You want to have a life of freedom, but it doesn’t come cheap. How do you get started?

Well, either you save money to get started, or you make money to get started.

Saving money to invest—How much money you have depends on this simple formula:

Money You Have = Money earned – Money Spent

If you want more money at the end of the day, you can either earn more, or spend less. That’s it. But if it’s so simple, then why do so many people get it wrong? They don’t earn enough, or they spend more than they earn, which means they have little or no money left by the end of each month.

Even worse, if the money leftover is negative for long enough, people get into debt, which can spiral out of control. I understand that it’s not easy for everyone. Some might not be able to find a job, others have family to take care of. I never said it was going be easy, but most of the time there is something that can be done—downsizing, reducing purchases, eliminating entire bills/subscriptions/memberships, anything!

One of the great side effects of living a minimalist lifestyle is all of the extra money you save from deciding that you don’t need so much junk in your life. Not only that, but if you use those savings wisely, it can buy you things worth way more in the future.

I like to call this reducing your life overhead. Overheads usually refer to the costs of running a business, but there’s no reason why it can’t apply to your life. Keep your overheads low and even if you don’t earn a lot, you’ll have some ‘profit’ leftover.

I had a very average salary when I worked full time. I chose to live in a city where rents were reasonable and I didn’t need to drive a car. I had a capsule wardrobe of work clothes, only went out occasionally, and I ate well but not expensively. By the time I quit my job, whereas most people would barely have enough money to make ends meet, I had nearly a year and a half worth of savings that I could fall back on to pay the bills. If I was even more frugal, I could have lasted two years or more.

But I didn’t want to just live off my savings. My intentions were to use my savings to buy freedom. I wanted to use at least a chunk of my funds to generate a passive income with so that I didn’t have to work again. I will go into more detail about how I did this below, and in a future post.

Making money to invest—On top of your existing savings, you can always try to earn more money to invest. Generally, the more money you start with, the more quickly you will reach financial freedom, if that’s your goal. This doesn’t mean that if you have a million dollars you can just do nothing, it can quickly run out if you don’t use it wisely to generate more dollars.

Even after leaving my job I continued to earn money via various online jobs. A quick Google search will show all the different ways you can make money online.

There are so many ways to make money if you keep your eyes open for the opportunity. Even within the realm of property, there is a lot of advice on how to start investing even if you don’t have a penny. For example, you can do something called ‘rent-to-rent’ (google it) or you can build a network (free), source deals (free or nearly free), and package and sell them to money-rich/time-poor investors for a fee (usually in the region of a few thousand dollars). This is just one example to prove that if you are resourceful enough, you can definitely make money in this world. 

Okay, enough about savings. Once you have some money, how should you use it?

Capital Allocation

What you decide to use your money for is absolutely crucial. It’s what differentiates you from the Scrooges and the spenders and it determines whether you succeed or fail.

Firstly, if you have any expensive debts, you must get rid of them first. Any returns you make in investing are not likely to cover things like credit card debt, pay day loans, or anything with a very high interest rate.

It would be like trying to fill a tub with a huge hole at the bottom. You have got to close the hole(s) first. Some cheaper debts such as student loans may be okay to keep as long as you calculate that the yields you’ll get with investing will outweigh the cost of the loan. This may depend on your personal circumstances.

You may end up having to work extra hours, take on a second job, or be very frugal for periods of a year, or two years, or more. However long it takes, it’s worth the peace of mind to become debt-free.

Secondly, after covering your debts, you need to have enough earnings and savings to cover your living expenses and then some, so that you have a nest egg for emergencies. Some people suggest one or two months, especially if they have specialised skills where they can always find a job, but I would recommend having at least three or six month’s contingency for expensive emergencies.

Finally, only when you have some money left over after all that (it can be as little as a few dollars) you can start investing.

I will talk more about how specifically to invest in the next blog post, but the basic premise of most investments is that you are investing for income and/or capital growth.

What this means is that some of your investing will be to make a short term return (yield) and some will be to make money in the future (capital). A lot of investments are a bit of both, such as shares which give you a dividend and hopefully go up in value over time, and property, which will hopefully give you rental income in the short term, and capital income in the future.

You will need to allocate your investments so that you earn some of both—enough short term returns to cover some or all of your monthly expenses, and enough in future capital growth so that you will have (sometimes a lot more) money in the future as well.

So what did I do in the end? After making sure that I had my basic needs covered at least for the next few months, I ended up investing a chunk of my savings into property. I chose property because it’s one of the only things you can borrow money to invest in. Also, the short term yield (the rent) will help cover my monthly expenses to live, and the long term capital growth will help me grow my income and wealth in the future. I also chose it because I live in Manchester, an amazing city that is booming at the moment and a great place to invest in property, for now.

On top of my own money, I managed to borrow some money from family, and I took out a mortgage after carefully calculating that the apartment(s) I wanted to buy would return a profit after expenses. I will go into the details in the next post, including examples of my income/expenditure/profit figures.

A brief note about borrowing money and where to allocate your debts—there is such a thing as good debt and bad debt. ‘Bad debt’ costs you money, like when money is borrowed to buy depreciating assets or liabilities, such as a car or a holiday. When you use money in this way, it costs you. ‘Good debt’ on the other hand is money borrowed to buy assets that generate money, such as property that has a rental income higher than the cost of borrowing. The property can also be sold with a healthy margin over how much you borrowed. Overall, this means you’re making money.

The key here is to have a plan. Know your numbers—how much money do you earn? How much money do you spend? How much do you have to/want to invest? When can you start?How much do you want to earn from your investments? When by?

A lot of people don’t think about these sorts of questions and go plodding along in their working life, and shopping every other weekend without stopping to think about what they are doing. Both time and money are a limited resource. They can be foolishly wasted, or they can be invested wisely to generate more free time and more money to spend.

I will write more about my specific property investments in my next post, and how you can get started with investing even if you can’t afford to buy a property yet.

Resources

The Complete Guide to Property Investment — Rob Dix

I will refrain from recommending more than one property book. This is one of the best ones I’ve read, and it will give you a good idea of how making money in property works from beginning to end. I also recommend all other books by Rob Dix, and their Property Hub website. I go to their UK meetups every couple of months to discuss property and network with other entrepreneurs.

 

 

The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success — Darren Hardy

A great book about how small actions can lead to big results. If you think you can’t be a millionaire one day, it’s because you’re thinking about millions of dollars right now, not one or ten dollars, which will compound into hundreds and then millions in the future if you make the right decisions. This book isn’t just about money, but also about how all of the life choices you make today will affect you in the future.

 

The Magic of Thinking Big — David Schwartz

If you want to make it big, you have to think positively, optimistically, and proactively—in other words, think big. My copy of this book is full of notes and bookmarks. Containing inspirational stories and phrases like “When you believe, your mind finds ways to do” and “In everything you do, life it up,” I’ve read this book more than a couple of times and can’t recommend it enough.

I’m only passing through

Two months into 2016, and I’ve made a lot of progress since quitting my corporate job. I have started my own business, which is going well, and have moved into a new home. It’s much brighter, and more spacious than the last one. The photo above is the beautiful view from the balcony.

Surrounded by a few bags and boxes, realising it’s is everything I own in the world, I’m reminded of a story about a wise man:

A travelling man visits a wise man’s house.

“Where is your furniture?” he asks the wise man.
“Where is yours?” the wise man replies.
“Mine? But I’m only passing through.”
“So am I,” the wise man said, “So am I.”

I’m only passing through

As always, minimalism has served me well. I don’t own as little as I did back when I used to travel a lot, but I still only have what I need. My expenditures are minimal, so I can pretty much afford to live wherever I want, living on my passive income and freelance work.

More importantly than just being easy to move house, minimalism has helped me keep my focus on the things that matter most to me—growing my business, my training (my next marathon is this April), and building a life with my partner. We don’t care about designer clothes, perfume brands or trying to get a good deal on a company car. In the end, none of these things will matter compared to what we’ve accomplished as people.

Moving again has reinforced what I’ve learned about the value of things—that is, they don’t really have value. Apart from loved ones (and sometimes not even them) you can’t physically touch the truly important things in life. You can’t buy it, borrow it, or exchange it for much else. They only matter to you, and that’s what makes them matter the most. 

I want to live my best life. I can do that by being grateful for everyday miracles, because I’ll only have them for a short while. And so do you. Some might think it’s a little sad, but it makes me happy to remember: we’re only passing through.

3 reasons to reduce your life overhead

For some it’s a simple question.

Do you know how much your life costs?

I’m not asking how much your life is worth, of course the answer to that is that it’s priceless. But how much does it cost?

For businesses, this is a very important question. As individuals, we may not have the responsibility of looking after shareholders, but nevertheless there is no reason why we shouldn’t keep a watchful eye on our life overheads.

If something should happen, say you lost your job or other income, would you be able to reduce, adapt and survive? Or would you go under? As a general rule, the biggest difference between those businesses that made it through the recession and those that didn’t was the ability to change, reorganize and cut down on spending to the most minimum amounts. Many of them came out of the other side much less wasteful of resources and ran at their most efficient in years.

What would happen if you reduced your cost of living ? You’ll gain:

1. Freedom

The Problem: Being trapped in a job you hate. As a teen I could only land menial jobs, which made me feel like a tiny cog in a giant corporate machine. I was trading each hour of my life away for cash. I felt like I had a price on my head, and it wasn’t very high. So I quit. I felt I had learnt a lot, and gained some valuable life experience but in the end, working like that wasn’t for me. And since being at university, the fact that I don’t have a job has freed me up to concentrate on my studies. However, there are some that don’t have such luxuries (excluding those who don’t have a choice). Although they hate their job, they can’t quit or even cut back on hours because they wouldn’t have enough money to pay for petrol in their car or to feed their buying habits.

The Solution: To survive, I found alternative routes of income and I reduced my life overheads. I’ll save it for a future post about how I make money (I can assure you it’s perfectly legal!). But, basically I changed my life when I became a minimalist. I ride a bike instead of driving or taking the bus, I found ways to hang out with my friends for practically free, and I learned to live happily with what I already have instead of buying new stuff.

2. Peace of mind.

The Problem: Either we don’t even realise what we’re spending until it’s too late or we constantly worry about going into overdrafts and repaying debts. Being completely unaware of the problem is a recipe for disaster but on the other hand constantly worrying about it isn’t going to solve anything by itself.

The Solution: Reduce. Simplify. Change. There are people that can’t imagine life without a car, shopping for new clothes every weekend or going out clubbing three times a week. If you spend a lot, you need to earn a lot to sustain your lifestyle. If you simply cut down on you wants, you don’t have to give up as much of your valuable free time working for money, or your well-being becoming stressed about it. Don’t overfeed the ‘want’ monster and sooner or later it’ll stop being greedy.

3. Happiness

The Problem: We’re pressured to spend our whole lives trying to accumulate money. Our society has trained us to be constantly attached to money that we don’t even realise we are. We always carry money around, we spend it everyday (even if you don’t buy anything today, you’re still paying for rent/bills) and most of the time we’re working or studying for a ‘secure future’ which basically means we expect to earn more money in the future. Money money money.

The Solution: Just let go. Let go of your need to collect money. Be content with what you have now. Everyone knows that money doesn’t equal happiness, but they just need to believe it. Stop worrying and thinking about the future all the time. The future isn’t here yet, but the present is. I’m not advocating throwing everything you’ve worked for out the window, just that every once in a while, remember that you are already rich.

The secret to minimalist travel

Having spent a few weeks trying to settle down in a completely foreign country, I’m often asked, “Do you miss home?“.

The answer isn’t a simple yes or no.

Yes, I miss my family and my home, but that doesn’t mean I want to go back right now. I care about them a more than they know, but  I would much rather be where I am now. Even though everyday presents small challenges and leaps out of my comfort zone, I manage to learn something new about the world each and every time.

And one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that even though I’m on the other side of the world, perhaps I’m not really away from home at all.

the secret to minimalist travel

Before I moved, I wrote a post about how to pack a minimalist suitcase. Carrying less is only one part of what minimalist travel really means. You can pack as light as you want, but you won’t be satisfied if you don’t have the second ingredient too.

The secret to true minimalist travel is having portable peace of mind.

What does this mean? In short, it means having the ability to take ‘home’ wherever you go.

If you can take your peace of mind with you, you will be content wherever you are. You can go anywhere and you won’t have to worry about being homesick if your home is always with you. Imagine if there was a way you could pack it up and carry it everywhere, without it weighing a thing…

redefining home

What does the word ‘home’ mean to you? For most people, it’s

  • the place they keep their stuff
  • the place they grew up/made good memories
  • where they ‘live’

If you take these three things and think about them carefully one by one, perhaps it’s not so hard to believe that you can make your home ‘portable’.

1. “It’s where I keep my stuff”. If you take your stuff with you, then your home is no longer where you keep your stuff! If you go travelling often, it might be the place you use as storage. If that’s the case, any safe place will do as storage space! When I first moved to university, I left a few things at home that I didn’t need. Because I had all of the things I did need in my dorm, it felt more like home than the one I left behind.

2. “It’s where I grew up”. When people get nostalgic, they’re not really thinking about the particular thing, it’s for the memory of it. A piece of clothing, an old toy or even a building isn’t what is making you happy, it’s all of the happy times you’ve associated with it. Memories are stored in your head, so if you really think about it, you don’t actually need the thing to be with you forever. You can move from place to place, and create new memories which will be just as good, or even better, even after you’ve moved away. Of course it will be a little sad if you never saw the place you grew up again, but not getting too attached to things that don’t last anyway, is the key to moving on. Even though it may be nice to revisit memories once in a while, dwelling on the past isn’t something you should do forever.

3. “It’s where I live”. By ‘live’ I mean where one eats, drinks, sleeps and relaxes in general. If you move to a new place, this is now where you will ‘live’, so who cares where it is? Wherever you eat and sleep is where you are, so a part of what ‘home’ means is you. You are your home.

My biggest aspiration in life is to be able to see the world and experience new and different ways of thinking. For me, I feel that my ‘home’ will always be a safe place I can go back to, where I can find my bearings if I get lost and where I can ground myself and think carefully when I don’t know where I want to go next. For me, ‘home’ is a place beyond an arrangement of bricks.

Home is special, it’s mine and it’ll always be with me.

Positive mindfulness – how to be grateful for the good things in life

2013 was undeniably my best year so far. In the last twelve months, I have lived in three different cities, ran a marathon, graduated, moved to Japan, and got my dream job. 13 really is my lucky number.

If only I had more to remember it by…

Well, I’m not going to make the same mistake next year. My new year’s resolution will be short and sweet – to be grateful for the good things in life.

It’s easy to let one bad thing ruin a good day. Sometimes, we need to be reminded of the good things we have to realise how lucky we are. I like to call it ‘positive mindfulness’.

There are so many things that can brighten up our day. A smile from a stranger, trying something new, seeing old friends, a challenging task, giving to others, a fulfilling job, a partner’s affection, overcoming an obstacle, finishing something, family gatherings, learning a new skill, a good workout, a genuine hug… the list goes on.

Almost everything that makes us truly happy in life doesn’t cost a thing. We just have to be mindful of them. Here are some ideas…

Three practical ways to stay positively mindful next year

1. Keep a ‘Gratitude Box’

Find a shoebox or something similar and place a notepad beside it. Every time something good happens to you, or if you feel particularly grateful for something, write a note about it, along with the date, and pop it in the box. Try to write one thing a day, or at least a couple a week.

At the end of next year, hopefully you’ll have a box stuffed full of notes… and hopefully reading back on them will make you smile/cry/laugh.

2. Make an ‘Amazing Day Collage’

Make a colourful collage or simply write a few post-it notes of all of the the things you can think of that would make your day. Stick them somewhere that you’ll see every morning. The notes will remind you of what to keep an eye out for throughout your day.

You’re more likely to notice the good things if you’ve been reminded to look out for them. Add more as you notice new things that make you smile.

3. One second of every day of 2014

This is such a simple idea. It’s a video showing just one second of everyday in a man’s life. Just as he saw it, just as it happened.

It inspires me to do the same. Some might think that recording their lives is an invasion of privacy, but personally, I have such a weak memory that I would be more grateful, rather than paranoid, if I could recall all of the lovely memories I made this year. Also, I don’t have to share it publicly, and I don’t get up to that much mischief anyway!

At the same time, some moments are made to be enjoyed, not photographed. In any case, whether or not I decide to record the moment, the most important thing is that I’m having fun.

Do you have any suggestions to stay positively mindful next year? Let me know in the comments.

Happy New Year folks!

Everyday miracles

What is a miracle?

A supernatural event? Something rare? Magic, or deception?

Yes, it can be any of these things, but I wonder how many people would say that a miracle can be something ordinary?

Or, at least, something that seems ordinary. Miracles happen every day around us, we just don’t see it.

Most people would call walking on water a miracle, but how about walking on earth? How special that is! Yes, most people can walk on the ground, but that doesn’t make it less of a miracle.

Think about it. Think of all of the things in the universe that had to come together so that you can take a single step. From the beginning, conditions on Earth had to be just right for life to blossomeverything from the temperature to the water and oxygen levels. That’s why life has been so hard to find anywhere else. And even when it wasn’t perfect, like when a volcano erupted, or a meteor struck, every one of your ancestors survived so that you are alive today.

That’s not all. If you want to take a shorter view on it, the fact that you’re healthy and alive right now, and able to enjoy this beautiful day is a miracle in itself! Be grateful for every moment you can feel the breeze through your clothes, or the rain on your face. Be grateful for every morning the sun rises and every evening you made it to the end of the day alive…because, sadly, a lot of people didn’t.

In our modern lives, we can’t expect too many miracles. But if we look carefully, they are all around us. The miracle is not to walk on the water, or on clouds or fire, but it is to walk on earth.

My Minimalist European Trip Packing List

By the time you read this, I might be wondering the streets of Old Town in Prague, admiring art in the museums of Vienna, or bathing in the spas of Budapest… checking cities off my List.

I’ll be mostly offline while I’m travelling, so for this month’s post we’ll take a break from the personal finance advice and go back to basics. Here’s a list of all of the things I’m taking for my minimalist trip to Europe. I’ll be carrying one backpack containing:

  1. One pair black jeans
  2. Two button shirts (that don’t need ironing)
  3. Two t-shirts
  4. Jacket
  5. Pyjamas
  6. Book
  7. Notebook and pencil (for diary entries, thoughts, ideas, sketches etc.)
  8. Sleeping eye mask and ear plugs
  9. Toothbrush and toothpaste
  10. Face wash and face cream
  11. Shampoo and bodywash
  12. Hand sanitiser
  13. Hair comb
  14. iPhone with battery and cable
  15. Power adapter

Not pictured: my iPhone which I was using to take the photo, my passport, flight/travel papers, wallet, and underwear for privacy, and the pair of shoes and socks I’ll be wearing.

That’s it! These are things I’m not taking:

  • Too many toiletries/makeup—I’m not planning to look/smell homeless, but as a tourist I doubt people will pay too much attention to what I look like. Also, coconut oil is a great multi-purpose skin moisturiser, lip balm, hair conditioner etc. which saves me having to take too many travel bottles.
  • Extra clothes—I would rather pay a few Euros for laundry/drying than carry too much around with me since I plan to do a lot of walking.
  • Gadgets/valuables—apart from my phone which I’ll be using for directions etc. I won’t be taking any other gadgets (including DSLR, see below), my watch, or jewellery or valuables that can get stolen.
  • A towel/hairdryer etc—too bulky, I’ll be staying in a mix of hostels and Airbnb which provide them.

I’ll fly with just carry on, so everything will fit in a medium sized backpack (about the size that would fit a 15 inch laptop) that weighs 6-8kg. Even though I’ll be taking very little for the trip, I’m not worried—I’ll mostly be in big cities so if I really need something, I can just buy it.

In a new exercise in mindfulness, I am deliberately not taking my DSLR so that I will spend my energy enjoying the sights in real life (gasp), rather than photographing them. If I like how something looks, instead of taking a photo and rushing off, I intend to spend an extra few minutes appreciating it in person. I might even sketch it into my notebook (I’ve been inspired lately by Leonardo da Vinci to write/draw more things down).

I could have packed more, or I could have packed less. Everyone is different, and everyone needs and likes to have different things. From my previous travels, I’ve learned what works for me and what I’m comfortable with.

Have I forgotten anything? Let me know what you think!